DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday it is considering formally listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.
The announcement begins a yearlong review that will include public meetings in four of the five states where the member of the prairie grouse family lives.
Fish and Wildlife said it made the decision based on evidence that the bird and its habitat are in decline.
"The lesser prairie chicken is a species that is in peril and has been for some time," said Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe.
The chicken's range includes parts of New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas. Nearly 85 percent of its grass and brush-land habitat has been affected by ranching and farming. Most of its habitat is on private land.
Ranchers, farmers and wind farm operators worry about a listing because it could increase regulations. Wind turbines, oil wells and fences are among the culprits scientists say have caused the chicken's decline.
Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said the listing "could significantly disrupt traditional and renewable American energy production and delivery, as well as agriculture.
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